In hockey practice, Father Leboutilier is a tough coach. He knows exactly what he wants his boys to learn to do, and spends long hours teaching them.
Leboutilier comes across as a devoted teacher who wants to see his kids succeed.
The hockey team practices for its first game, in which they’ll play against a team from White River. During one practice, a boy injures himself, meaning that he’ll be unable to play. Saul volunteers to replace the boy, explaining that he’s been practicing every morning. Even though Saul is still too young, Father Leboutilier decides to allow him to fill in during the scrimmage that day.
When a boy is forced to sit out of the game, Saul seizes the opportunity. Father Leboutilier, who seems invested in Saul’s success at St. Jerome’s, gives him a chance to succeed.
The scrimmage begins. While Saul is confused at first, he quickly comes to understand the patterns of the game. Skating quickly, Saul scoops the puck, skates as fast as he can down the rink, and scores a goal. Everyone is impressed, especially Father Leboutilier. He decides to let Saul play center in the scrimmage. Saul has a great time throughout the game, and afterwards he and his fellow players stand together, “like stallions home from the range.”
Again, Wagamese characterizes Saul’s experience in the hockey rink in transcendent, lyrical language. Saul seems to savor the exhilarating freedom of hockey, a sense of freedom that life at St. Jerome’s doesn’t otherwise give him.